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John Laurinaitis’ lawyer says WWE knew about Ashley Massaro’s rape allegation

The company denied any knowledge of the 2006 incident in Kuwait after the wrestler’s 2019 death, but fallout from recent sexual abuse claims against Vince McMahon & others has uncovered evidence to the contrary — and more talk McMahon separately harassed Massaro.

WWE.com

The late Ashley Massaro was not named in Janel Grant’s lawsuit accusing Vince McMahon, John Laurinaitis & WWE of sex trafficking or WWE’s 2022 investigation into McMahon’s hush money payments to Grant and other women. But the former WWE talent has become a central figure in the coverage of McMahon and the corporate culture which allegedly enabled him in the wake of Grant’s suit.

In a 2016 affidavit that was part of a concussion safety lawsuit multiple wrestlers filed against WWE, Massaro alleged that she was drugged and raped by someone representing himself as a United States Army doctor while at a U.S. military base in Kuwait while on tour with WWE in 2006. She said she was interviewed about the incident by a WWE doctor, who reported her allegation to executives at the company including McMahon, Laurinaitis, Kevin Dunn & others. They apologized for allowing the incident to happen but encouraged her not to pursue the matter so as to not risk damaging WWE’s relationship with the military. McMahon is said to have told her “not to let one bad experience ruin the good work they were doing.”

After Massaro’s death in 2019, which several outlets reported as a suicide, the allegation resurfaced. WWE then issued a statement denying her story, which read in part:

At no time was Vince McMahon or the management of WWE ever informed by Ashley Massaro or anybody else that she had been sexually assaulted, drugged, raped or sodomized by a military doctor with a nurse standing guard while on a goodwill tour in 2007 to U.S. military bases in Kuwait. In fact, if she ever articulated such a claim to WWE, we would have reported it immediately to the Base Commander.

At no time was there ever a meeting with Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, John Laurinaitis or other company executives in which she told them of such a claim and was instructed to keep it quiet.

Now however, Laurinaitis is admitting that he and others knew about the claim. That comes via his lawyer, Edward Brennan, in a statement to Vice:

“Any allegations that Mr. Laurinaitus helped to cover up an alleged rape allegation is an outright lie. Johnny, like most upper level management at sometime became aware of the allegations and ensured all proper WWE protocols were followed, including privacy for the alleged victim. We object to the use of the term cover up as no such plan or plot ever took place to hide or assist in the alleged rape.”

Brennan last week issued a statement claiming that his client was also a victim of McMahon’s.

Vice’s report also includes coverage of a podcast series from last year entitled Ashley vs WWE. For that, reporter Isobel Thompson spoke to Ferdinand Rios, the WWE doctor who interviewed Massaro about the rape and then informed WWE officials about it. Rios’ account also disputed WWE’s denial, and would seem to support claims of a generally toxic culture at the company:

“I spoke with her and she told me a little bit about it,” [Rios] said. He further said that it was fairly widely known within WWE at the time. “Those that went would tell those that didn’t go that this happened,” he said.

Massaro’s affidavit said that Rios reported the situation to McMahon, but he remembered going to Laurinaitis:

“[Laurinaitis] already knew and no one wanted to give me any further details about it,” said Rios. “I had nothing to do with it, they said. So, it was just sort of a shock. You know when you’re restricted from saying anything else.”

Brennan told Vice that his client heard about Massaro’s allegation “at some point”, but had no idea “when or whether” McMahon found out about it.

Tim Marchman of Vice also learned that the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service opened an investigation into Massaro’s allegations in June 2019 (the base where Massaro was allegedly assaulted had a clinic staffed by Navy personnel, thus NCIS’ involvement). That investigation was closed the following January, but more information about it findings is pending its release under a Freedom of Information Act request.

This latest report also includes a recounting of various statements another former WWE wrestler, Paul London, has made about Massaro, McMahon, and WWE over the years. London and Massaro dated while they were both with the company, and like Massaro’s lawyer Konstantine Kyros did recently, he says Massaro was harassed by McMahon.

During an appearance on the podcast of another ex-WWE wrestler, Rene Dupree last year, London said:

“I do remember specifically many times when she would be crying to me because Vince was propositioning her to fly on the jet with them. Kevin Dunn, Bucktooth Bucky [a popular nickname for Dunn], would be telling her that she has to fly on the jet with them, or every now and then, she was at the — they would always put the divas up at the tv hotel or whatever, [McMahon] would be knocking on her door and trying to get her to answer.”

WWE’s parent company TKO declined to comment on any of these allegations. You can read Marchman’s entire report for Vice here.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, confidential support is available by calling 800.656.HOPE, and links to other resources can be found here.

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